Bloody-nosed Beetles

I know autumn is on the way when I see these strange little creatures crawling around our house and garden…

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Tatzenkäfer)

Timarcha tenebricosa

Every year they climb the walls of the house…

Struggle up (and down) steps…

And try (usually in vain) to get into our home. (Although they do make it into the garage!)

The first year we saw them, we tried to rescue some to safer areas away from feet, doors or car tyres, and to our horror they started bleeding at the slightest touch! (Thus the name!) Then we looked them up and found they are not injured, but exude a red toxic fluid as a defence mechanism. “Reflex bleeding” occurs in many types of beetle, including ladybirds… in their case a yellowish-brown substance is released.

So, now I just let them go whichever way they want!

Artichoke or Cardoon?

A couple of weeks ago I saw an artichoke flower for the first time – Claire at Promenade Plantings posted some fabulous photos of her beautiful artichokes here.

Then last week, while visiting a walled garden in the English countryside, I came across this…

Not an artichoke as I first thought, but a Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), sometimes called an Artichoke Thistle.

While reading up on it I was pleased to discover that not only is it edible – like the artichoke – but the plant is also a source of vegetable rennet used for cheeses, particularly in Portugal!

For comparison, here is a Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) flower, photographed a few feet away from the Cardoon. (They were labelled in this garden, so I’m relying on those gardeners to have got it right!)

Can YOU spot the difference? (I can’t!) Confusing! They are really so similar, and obviously very close cousins! Perhaps the foliage is the clue, but I unfortunately did not think to photograph the leaves.

If anyone can enlighten me, I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever grown them in your garden?

Lemony Lemon Cake

We enjoyed this cake one Sunday afternoon with our neighbour a couple of weeks ago.

Lots of lemons. And just for fun, I added some lemon verbena! 😀

Lemony Lemon Cake      

Cake ingredients (Makes one 26cm cake):

  • 2 sticks (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups (400g) sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • Zest of 4 lemons
  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
  • 15 fresh verbena leaves
  • 1 ½  tsps baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Lemon syrup:

  • 1/2 cup (110 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and flour cake pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Combine the lemon juice and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time. Stir in lemon zest. Fold in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then gently mix in about 1/2 the lemon buttermilk mixture, another 1/3 of the flour, and the rest of the buttermilk. Mix the last 1/3 of the flour with the lemon verbena leaves and whizz in a food processor until the lemon verbena is just little green specks, then fold into the cake batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the cake is ready, gently heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.When cake is done, let rest for a few minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack set over a tray. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the top of the cake. Slowly pour warm lemon syrup over the top of the cake. Let cake cool completely.


Link for conversion tables:

A Centenarian’s Travels: Berlin

Our neighbour, Mr Barth, and his daughter Mrs Hollmichel, sent me some photos a couple of days ago of him on his travels. Here he is in Marzahn Park, Berlin, where “Gardens of the World” are presented in different areas of the park.

Our dear neighbour has been mentioned on my blog before; as a regular visitor for coffee and cake, he frequently provides me with a good excuse to bake! Mr Barth is also very good company, always with a tale to tell. After all, he has over 100 years to fall back on for some stories or snippets of information! (Yes, he’s 100 years young!)

Berlin, which is about 600km north of us, has also had a rather hot summer this year, but the flowers are clearly well-tended in the park.

Such a colourful array of summer flowers here – the type of flower bed I would love, but without watering sadly not possible…

There is an Italian-style garden, a Bali garden, Chinese and Korean gardens, and a Japanese garden…

A good place to think about the meaning of life…

Perhaps also inspiration for some Japanese elements in my garden…

Thank you for sending the photos Mr Barth (and daughter)! Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Colours of Late Summer, Part Two

Yesterday the focus was on bright, vivid colours.

Today some pastels for the start of September! Pinks and blues, violets and purples. The mix of colours surprised me so late in the year at a garden I visited in the UK last week. But perhaps I am thinking in terms of “late” for Germany, and not England!


Butterflies were everywhere in this border, particularly attracted to the Buddleia and white Sedum. The bursts of shocking pink are Cleome.


Cosmos, Sage, Purple Loosestrife, Sedums (with purple foliage)…


Clematis and other climbers were on every available wall…

And some deeper shades here. Japanese Anemones, Dahlias, Eupatorium…

… and a dark red, almost chocolate -coloured Scabiosa…

Hope you enjoyed visiting this English garden with me!

Colours of Late Summer, Part One

One particular garden I visited in the UK last week had some wonderful displays of late summer colours, which I would like to share…

But first the backdrop: LUSH GREEN!

The thick lawn and fresh foliage everywhere gives the strong colours in the borders even more impact…


The hot border – with dahlias, crocosmia, lobelia, salvia and more – is simply stunning.

I particularly liked the dark foliage of the Dahlias, contrasting with the pale Echinacea in the foreground.


This border focused on yellows, creams and shades of apricot and peach, with contrasting foliage. Note a yellow buddleia on the left at the back. The apricot crocosmia at the front also stands out.


These gorgeous Heleniums stole the show!

Here the garden borders a wild flower meadow and the open countryside…

And peeping out of this bright border I discovered an absolutely gorgeous Dahlia… (My favourite so far!)

Adorable! It was on sale in their nursery, but I have had limited success with dahlias in my garden so I will just look at this photo occasionally instead! (It’s called “Honka Surprise”)

Do YOU have a favourite late-summer flower?

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the “cooler” colours I found in this garden…

Words – A Thought for the Day

“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.”

Hermann Hesse (German poet)

I often think that there are not the right words to express my thoughts – even in two languages!


 By the way, until I read some Hermann Hesse poetry, I did not realise how beautiful the German language could be!